Summary of this year's gig:

We got into Toquet about 6pm Friday, after collecting assorted equipment. We ordered in Chinese food for dinner. Set up was done by about 8pm, and we played casually until about 11pm. Everyone sounded great! Saturday, Greg and Dan went to complete the PA and recording setup, with everyone else showing up around 2pm. We played some more, and wrestled with song charts and a set list. Ordered in pizza around 6pm. We targeted starting again around 7pm, with the hopes of a small audience. Apparently, the high school kids won't stay and listen to any band except other high school kids, so we played to an empty house. We ripped through a list of about 25 songs. We tanked a couple, and really nailed some others. Finished at 10:30pm, and everyone helped with the tear-down and load-out. Had a wrap party at a local diner. Next afternoon, we went to Peter's house for burgers and an acoustic session. More chatting than playing, but fun anyway. Ended about 4pm.

Some Notes for next time:

These notes apply to a multi-day event. We had 4 sessions over 3 days, and people drove in from Chicago and New Jersey (invites went to England and the West Coast). If you plan to hold a shorter event, many of the same notes apply. Also, this was the first time that the 9 of us had ever been in the same room before - a true Jam! If you have all played together before, then you probably know what works best for you.

  1. Stay in the same place for the entire time. Stay for the Sunday session; we lost playing time by shifting venues. Toquet was great, although it echoed like crazy (they are installing some dampeners later this year).
  2. Do the PA set-up as early as possible, and with as few people around as possible.
  3. Do the paperwork earlier. It's the same in any business. The best general rule is "If it's not charted, we're not playing it!". Given a 3-day/4-session event, people can take the time to chart a song and go copy it between sessions.
  4. The group should pick a few songs (5-10) to really work on. It's good to pick some originals, because there is no urge to "play it like the album", but some classics are good too. If you have horns, be sure to pick at least one song that features them. Also, be sure to pick a strong vocal/harmony song. Pick the time that you want to work on these; we would have done it on the Saturday afternoon session.
  5. Always roll tape. Even if it's a simple system, record the event for everyone, and always record everything, because you never know when the magic will strike. Besides, the outtakes will be hilarious!
  6. Don't assume you'll have an audience. Set up as if this is a rehearsal, with everyone facing each other. Set up the PA so that the monitors are full fills, and use the good speakers. If you do have an audience, it's easy enough to turn the vocalists to face them. An audience does push the level of the playing and reduces the goofing around, but unless you're guaranteed a reasonable gathering, don't setup for it.
  7. For most sessions, it doesn't hurt to have a set list. You don't have to follow it rigorously, but it does help to keep the flow going. It's OK to stop a song that has a bad start (too slow/fast, etc), but keep the playing going. Other than the few songs that you'll "practice", this should be free flowing. It's amazing how much time you can waste while the guitarists riff to themselves and everyone else says "I dunno, whadda you wanna play?" Alternately, it's OK to have some spontaneous songs, so long as someone is willing to "carry" it.
  8. Do make sure there is a plan for meals, both time and place. Ordering in is good, but you'll need a break sometime too, so make sure that there is a scheduled hour or two between sessions on the same day (Sat 1-5 and 7-11). Also, make sure there is plenty of water and drinks on-site. If you allow alcohol, keep it limited; keep it sane. Since we were in the town's Teen Center, no beer of smokes were allowed.
  9. Similarly, the host should make a budget and keep track of who's paid up.
  10. Make sure that everyone stays for the tear-down. One problem with an open ended Sunday session is that people will begin to drift off before the official stopping time. On trick would be to set a reasonably early session for Sunday pm (say play 12-4p). Thankfully, everyone helped with everything at our gig.
  11. If you get T-shirts (I recommend it), get them in a light grey or equivalent. Anne had the wonderful idea of having all of us sign the shirts for each other. As she said, you never know when someone will become famous!
  12. Last, don't try to anticipate or control too much (God knows I do it all the time). If you invite a bunch of musicians who are also reasonably fun people, it will all work out just fine. So long as there is some time structure to the different sessions, everyone will get what they want, and some wonderous music will be made. So have fun!

If you have any other suggestions for next time (and there will be a next time!), email me.